A Brief Encounter with Adam Weishaupt in 1804

Saturday, September 20th, 2008 | Adam Weishaupt

by Terry Melanson (20/09/2008)

Johann Adam Weishaupt (1748-1830); founder of the Order of the Illuminati

Johann Adam Weishaupt (1748-1830); founder of the Order of the Illuminati

Relatively late in the research for the book Perfectibilists, I became aware of an short account from Henry Crabb Robinson, in his Diary, Reminiscences, and Correspondence, where he had gone to Gotha in 1804 and met with Adam Weishaupt. I hadn’t included this exchange in my own book (as it wasn’t readily accessible to me at the time). However, recently, Google books has scanned in a full-view copy of the diary. Here, then, is Henry Crabb Robinson’s encounter with Adam Weishaupt (in Diary, Reminiscences, and Correspondence, Vol. I, Boston: Fields, Osgood, & Co. 1869, pp. 124-6):

[...] my object in referring to this visit to Gotha is to say something of a man whose name belongs to the history of the last century, though it was raised to undue importance by the malignant exaggerations of party spirit.

During the heat of the first Revolution in France, two works appeared, one in England, by Professor Robison of Edinburgh, and the other, the more voluminous, in France, by the Abbe Barruel, with the common object of showing that the Revolution and all the horrors consequent on it were the effect of a conspiracy deliberately planned and carried out on the Continent of Europe by an Order of Infidels, who, by means of secret societies, planned to destroy all thrones, overturn all altars, and completely upset the established order of things. The society to which this scheme was ascribed had the name of The Illuminati. They were supposed to have ramifications everywhere. The Kantian philosophy was one of the instruments. Indeed, more or less, every union of men, and every variety of thought, opposed to monarchy and popery had about it the suspicion of “Illumination.” And of this tremendous evil the founder and archdeacon was Adam Weishaupt. When I found that this notorious man was leading a secluded life in Gotha, I determined to call on him. On entering his room, I remarked that he was both embarrassed and reserved, and it was not till I had introduced myself as one anxious to see him, though I knew of him only from his enemies, that he seemed willing to enter into conversation with me. On my taking leave, he even invited me to repeat my visit, and I went to him three times. He frankly told me that I was let into his house through the stupidity of a servant-girl, whom he was on the point of turning away for it; but he had forgiven her on account of the pleasure he had derived from our interviews. He said he held in abhorrence all travellers who made impertinent calls, and especially Englishmen. He would not gratify the curiosity of such men. But my candor and openness had rendered him willing to make an exception in my case. In saying this he was, perhaps, not departing from that character which his enemies ascribed to him. Indeed, as is usual in such instances, the statements made concerning him are founded in truth. The falsehood lies in the exaggeration of some parts of his history, and in the omission of others.

Weishaupt would not have denied that he was brought up among the Jesuits, or that in his opposition to them he availed himself of the resources which he acquired through his connection with them. And he did form a secret Order at a time when, especially in the South of Germany, an open expression of free opinions would have endangered liberty, and perhaps life. That the end was good according to his first intention, and that there was at all times, perhaps, a mixture of goodness in his motives, may reasonably be conceded. Many eminent men (Baron Knigge was one of the ablest) attached themselves to the Order. It has always been said that Maximilian, the first king of Bavaria, was favorable to it; nor does the history of his reign contradict the report. The Church, the courtiers, and the aristocracy were, however, too powerful for the conspirators. The society was broken up, a fierce persecution arose, and Weishaupt was happy in making his escape, and obtaining the protection of the learned Duke of Saxe-Gotha and the Duchess. When I saw him he was about fifty-six years of age, and his appearance was in no respect prepossessing; his features were coarse, his voice harsh, and his manners abrupt and awkward. But his conversation made a strong impression on my mind. He showed no great anxiety to vindicate himself against the prevailing opinion respecting him, or to dwell on those sentiments which would be most likely to gain popular favor; on the contrary, he uttered things which it requires boldness and indifference to evil report to express. Among his sayings, one was delivered with peculiar emphasis: “One of my tests of character is what a man says about principle. A weak man is always talking of acting on principle. An able man does always the right thing at the right moment, and therein he shows himself to be able.” He even went so far as to say that there are occasions when it is foolish to be just. He took a desponding view of human life, and seemed to think human society unimprovable. No wonder! He had himself failed as a reformer, and therefore thought no one else could succeed. He said, “There is but one schoolmaster whose teaching is always effectual, — Necessity. Evil flourishes till it destroys itself. So it was with Popery; so it will be with monarchy.” And he added, somewhat diffusely, that there is a constant interchange of progressive evil and partial reform. I said, I could not believe that his view was a correct one. He smiled and said, “You are quite right; if you can help it, don’t believe it.” I said, “You would not teach this to your children.” — “If I attempted it,” he answered, “I should not succeed. The young, with their good hearts, cannot believe it.” — “But old men with cold heads?” I said in a voice of interrogation. “I am sorry for it,” he said, “but it is true.”

The practical writings of Weishaupt are of value; the speculative were never esteemed. He wrote against the Kantian philosophy, but his works were not read. His “Pythagoras,” as he said, contains all the statistics of Secret Societies. But the vast extension of education since Weishaupt’s time has rendered this learning of less importance than it was even then. He is said to have been an admirer of Buonaparte. This is natural with his peculiar habit of thought. For the French character he professed great contempt, and for the English high admiration. To poetry and the fine arts he was indifferent.

A couple of things stand out. Weishaupt, while stressing that a man with character do what’s right, at the right time - hinting that such an able man alone knows it to be “right,” and is thus fit to lead - is classic Machiavelli; or, perhaps, similar to the maxims of Gracián Baltasar (both Machiavelli and Baltasar were recommended reading for Illuminati initiates; see my forth coming book). The other part of the too-few quotes from Weishaupt cited in diary, expresses something akin to fatalism, as defined in philosophy - a doctrine that Weishaupt wholeheartedly embraced during his years of exile.

Robinson’s assertion is correct that Weishaupt’s anti-Kantian philosophy wasn’t that popular. However, to his fellow popularphilosophen (among whom were more than a few Illuminati), and indeed to Kant’s disciples, Weishaupt’s broadside against Kant was formidable; and the only reason Kant hadn’t responded, was because his embargo against polemics had prevented it. Weishaupt’s three main Kantian critiques, are: Ueber die Gründe und Gewissheit der menschlichen Erkenntnis zur Prüfung der Kantschen Critik der reinen Vernunft [On the Reasons and Certainty of Human Knowledge: An Examination of Kant's Critique of Pure Reason] (Nürnberg 1788); and Ueber die Kantischen Anschauungen und Erscheinungen [On Kantian Observations and Phenomena] (Nürnberg 1788); Zweifel über die Kantischen Begriffe von Zeit und Raum [Doubts about the Kantian Notions of Time and Space] (Nürnberg 1788).

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16 Comments to A Brief Encounter with Adam Weishaupt in 1804

Hunter S. Rob
September 6, 2009


Stanley S. Steel
November 27, 2009

I wish Father Edward Beck would’ve read your most excellent book before commenting on the Illuminati in this brief Sean Hannity segment on the Bavarian Illuminati:


He seems quite clueless on the Illuminati. (they didn’t oppose the Church!?!) I was presently surprised to see you at 4:45 in the segment.

Great work Terry!

Terry Melanson
November 27, 2009

You’re one of the first who noticed that!

I was interviewed for quite a long time via a satellite link from NY to an affiliate studio in Halifax. I answered between 20 and 30 questions, yet all they used for the piece was a measly 5 or 6 seconds!

I had no idea that anyone else would be interviewed. As I looked at it though, I have to agree with you that the priest was out of his league; Hieronimus made some gaffes as well - like Weishaupt being a “Jesuit priest.”

The producer had a copy of my book for a few months before they aired that piece. There are a few parts in the narrative that I know for a fact they got the info from my book; especially the part about 4 edicts. Most history books will tell you that there were 3 edicts against the order (1784/85/87). As far as I know, my book is the only one in the English language that even mentions that in fact there was a last and final one in 1790, one year after the start of the French Revolution.

Stanley S. Steel
November 27, 2009

I caught the Jesuit Priest gaffe as well. :P

I searched this site to see if you had posted the youtube video here but couldn’t find it.

I know as a conspiracy theorist, you probably have an aversion towards Fox, but you must accept credit where it is due.

Apparently the segment ran again during US thanksgiving. So maybe more people will take notice.

Also, I noticed they used your audio comment about the death penalty as well.

Stanley S. Steel
November 27, 2009

The priest also mention that the element of fire, earth, water and air were important to the Illuminati. (So does Brown’s book)

I recall fire playing an important part in the higher degrees, but I can’t recall any of the other elements being of any importance. (and I think that was due to Weishaupt fascination with Zoroastrianism)

Weren’t these elements important to Rosicrucians? (I know they are central to Rosicrucians Chess)

Terry Melanson
November 27, 2009

It aired originally the day before the Angels and Demons movie came out (May 14th, I think). I haven’t linked to it on this or my other site. I’m just not that impressed with it, and was a little peeved at not being featured a little more prominently.

The 4-elements shtick of Brown is an invention. That’s alchemy doctrine. He probably wanted to include it to allude to the Renaissance/Bernini fascination with the occult arts and Hermeticism while providing his characters with a plot.

rob gilley
December 17, 2010

Wow! I have read some terrible lies about this man in the past, but none so cleverly constructed at these alleged acounts!

Terry Melanson
December 17, 2010

Oh really, now? Please enlighten us, then. What “terrible lies” in particular?

Matthew Cogliostro
January 14, 2011

Have you ever wondered why there are known texts written by a penned Adam Weishaupt, yet you can never find them readily in there entirety, it’s always quotes or excerpts..? How does anyone combat their existance, or for that matter excepts it when, one of the most notable quotes known to us today, again if in fact from them, is to the degree of, “The Strength of our order lies in its concealment, we shall never appear in the same place under the same name…”(rough quote) Is not the aim of a conspiracy to not be known(at least until its resistance is futile). And to quickly bring up the point of Weishaupt being a Jesuit(Order of Jesus) priest. As far as I know the Jesuits were excommunicated from the Holy Roman Catholic Church prior to the given May 1776 date given as the birth of the Illuminati, further invoking Weishaupt and his “goals”… So the importance of this is..? Looking for further dialogue - Matt

Terry Melanson
January 14, 2011

Weishaupt’s writings are readily available in German. It’s the language barrier that is the issue.

Weishaupt wasn’t a Jesuit, nor a priest. Just the opposite: he was the enemy of the Jesuits, monasticism and religious absolutism. See this.

Matthew Cogliostro
January 15, 2011

Just want to thank you Terry for this link and new insight, i have been following and studying the Bavarian Illuminati for quite some time and will say this is a first in the diversity and distinction between Weishaupt being a Jesuit. I am still in the process of cross referencing the different excerpts and material found on this links page. To better clarify my first entry, I was aware of the German texts of Weishaupt already, so a better way of asking that question would’ve been, why can’t we find them in English. Again, when I have come across them it has always been in the before mentioned manners. Though in my understanding of Weishaupt being a member of the Jesuits, I was definitely in the know as to his anti-religious, pro-reason train of thought, I was just under the impression that this was an inner thought of the Jesuits, as to say a belief that Jesus wasn’t trying to embrace religion, more of a inner spirituality, and that even at times that the portrayal of the biblical Jesus, as well as Satan were mere forms of symbolism to both Orders. For instance, a thought I’m sure you have heard before, in the way of a symbolic Satan, who delivered man to reason by tempting him to eat the fruit of “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil”, thus bringing mankind to wisdom, and acknowledgement of a dual nature. So my take was that he was truly an atheist or agnostic, or at absolute minimal, a deist, with no real belief in the judo-christian god.

So Terry, would you have any incite as to why the Vatican had it’s separation issues with the Jesuits, or was this another fabrication? Any links, and or material…? Again, thanks for responding and the link. - Matt

Matthew Cogliostro
January 16, 2011

Terry.. Wow! I’m getting bad. I meant to ask, do you have any incite as to why the Vatican excommunicated the Jesuit Order, and how true is it, if at all, that it was due to their liberal religious views? Also do you have any information about the Wilhelmsbad Conference(congress of wilhelmsbad)?
- Matt

Terry Melanson
January 19, 2011

Good overview here:

By the mid-18th century, the Society had acquired a reputation in Europe for political maneuvering and economic exploitation. The common conception was that Jesuits were greedy plotters, prone to meddle in state affairs through their close ties with influential members of the royal court in order to further the special interests of their order and the Papacy.

Monarchs in many European states grew progressively wary of what they saw as undue interference from a foreign entity. The expulsion of Jesuits from their states had the added benefit of allowing governments to impound the Society’s accumulated wealth and possessions.

I wrote a short article about Wilhemsbad a while back. It was a basically a convocation to determine the fate of the Strict Observance (Templar) rite of Masonry. The conclusion was that there was no evidence of descent from the knightly order, and that the so-called “unknown superiors” allegedly at its head were a fantasy and/or fraud. The rite was disbanded and the members were quickly snatched up by the Illuminati.

Molly Mac
February 21, 2011

Don’t you get it? The Bohemian Society of Sciences in Weishaupt’s time had members who were Illuminati and Masons. In the end it became the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences. That takes us to Bohemian Grove, founded by a member of the California Academy of Sciences. See the relationship? Drop two letters from the word Illuminati, mix it up, you have ALUMNI. You have all these ACADEMIES around the world that seem to know what is best for us. They thought everything should be explained by science. Well that leaves god out of the picture.

Terry Melanson
February 21, 2011

Actually that’s 4 letters:
Illuminati -> minus “Ilit” = alumni

What really intrigues me, however, is why you decided to plop the comment on this article in particular.

> Don’t you get it?


> See the relationship?


Leonard Kelsay
January 5, 2015

A vast amount of unpublished
C. Robinson\ writings is being studied & transcribed

A search for “Henry Crabb Robinson Project” will bring up an account of him & the ongoing transcription & publication of his vast archive. Marsh the composer has many links to HCR’s circle and his diary (multivolume & published) I would love to search. Possibly of interest is the frequent teasing of Thomas Manning (1772-1840) in the letters of Charles Lamb (two of H. C. R.’s set) as an Illuminatus. Manning was in company with Thomas Paine, Napoleon, the Dalai Lama (!), Marshman who introduced several of the classics of India to English speakers, and Carnot, “father of victory” in revolutionary France & father of thermodynamics. I would guess that “Citizen Stanhope,” (search as such ; there are so many Stanhopes) might have been insinuated. As I recall, maybe wrongly, Pestalozzi was his tutor. The other people mentioned are younger, potential recorders of the Illuminati veterans.

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